Subject: Six prisoners escape from Dili prison

Also AP:

U.N. police in East Timor hunting for five escaped inmates

Six prisoners escape from Dili prison

Posted: 18 February 2007 0215 hrs

DILI - Six prisoners escaped from a jail in the Timor Leste capital on Saturday, although one was later recaptured, police said.

"This afternoon, six prisoners escaped from Becora prison, one of which was captured immediately," UN police spokeswoman Monica Rodrigues told AFP.

"(We) are involved in the search for the other five, four of whom allegedly were in pre-trial detention concerning an arson case in Liquica," she said.

In January, three women were killed and their house was torched in Liquica, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the capital Dili.

Rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado escaped from the same prison along with more than 50 other inmates shortly after he was then arrested in August last year on charges of possessing weapons.

Reinado led a group of 600 deserting troops, and was accused of sparking civil unrest in May.

The unrest triggered clashes among rival security forces and gang wars on the streets that killed 21 people, and prompted the deployment of an Australian-led international peacekeeping force.

- AFP /ls


02/17/2007 11:47:17 AM EST

U.N. police in East Timor hunting for five escaped inmates

DILI, East Timor_U.N. police were hunting for five prisoners who escaped from jail in East Timor, a spokesman said Sunday, underscoring security concerns as the nation prepares for elections following political turmoil and violence last year.

The jailbreak Saturday was the second time prisoners in Becora prison in the capital in Dili had escaped since the unrest in May that killed at least 33 people and led to the downfall of the prime minister.

A prison guard said soon after the escape that up to 40 inmates had escaped.

U.N. spokeswoman Alison Cooper said this account was inaccurate and that only six people had fled, one of whom was arrested soon after the breakout.

It was unclear why the prison guard gave a higher number.

Cooper said police were searching for men, four of whom were in pretrial detention for arson while the fifth was serving a prison term for theft, and had set up roadblocks in the city.

The United Nations is heading a peacekeeping mission in Dili that began soon after the May violence.

Last September, 57 inmates escaped from Becora jail, including renegade military leader Alfredo Reinado, blamed for some of the worst violence in May. He and most of the other escaped convicts remain fugitives, Cooper said.

East Timor is due to hold presidential elections in April that some fear could spark more violence. The nation won independence from Indonesia in 1999 in a referendum ballot.

The country was thrust into chaos in April and May after then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri dismissed 600 mutinous soldiers. Rival police and army factions battled in the streets and clashes later spilled over into widespread gang warfare, looting and arson.

Alkatiri stepped down amid intense international pressure and was replaced by Nobel prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta.

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